Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Dog's Lament Part II...Or, An Owner's Lament...Or, Lessons Learned

Recently I wrote about A Dog's Lament (read here). I will admit that after writing that piece, I was hoping that some lessons would be learned. Of course, I had a very specific idea of what those lessons would be.....

(This may have something to do with my control issues, but that is an entirely different story and blog post....)

I -- naively, stupidly, do-gooderly (and yes, I am aware that is not a word) -- thought the dogs had learned not to bolt away and run off on their own. Unfortunately, it appears all they have learned is to compose a better lament (sort of).... And it appears all the lessons to be learned were and are mine...


In fact, the very next morning, I took both dogs out for their "first thing in the morning" potty break, and...both dogs proceeded to bolt again. A flash of fur, and poof. Gone. I called after them frantically. Nothing.  I decided there was nothing I could do but go inside and wait.
[First Lesson: Embrace the situation.]

So in I went, and opened up my computer. I started to surf the internet and start my work for the day. I waited. I kept an eye out the sliding glass door. I waited. I went to the front door and hollered out a few times. I waited. I worked and surfed some more. I waited.
[Second Lesson: Patience.]

Hours passed. Yes, that says hours. I realized that the sun would go behind the mountain shortly, and it would start getting dark. I realized clearly the sitting and waiting was not working.

So I got up, got in the car, and started slowly driving up the dirt mountain road / trail -- windows down, heat on high, calling and whistling every few seconds. I got a mile up the road and hit a wicked ice flow (water that has run down or across the road and frozen solid). I stopped. Called. Whistled. Turned around, and headed slowly back towards the house, hoping they would be sitting on the deck waiting for me. Nothing. Turned around again and headed back up the drive.

It was now nearly 2 pm, and the sun goes behind the mountain around 2:30 pm. They had been gone since 9:30 that morning.

At the top of the drive, I turned to head back up the road.

And, rounding the corner, heading straight towards me, is Hollow, at top speed. Grinning from ear to ear, hastily composing her lament as she ran. Ten feet behind her is Rilke, also at top speed, also grinning from ear to ear, somewhat belatedly composing his lament.
[Third Lesson: Laments are nothing but words.]

If I had any hope any lessons for the dogs would actually be learned after this misadventure -- and trust me, those hopes had already been dashed -- the next day proved exactly who was learning the lessons.

I decide the next day that clearly the lesson is that I need to start hiking up the road/trail itself, instead of avoiding it, as I had been doing. Previously I had been hiking down to a "no man's land" below my cabin, where I would cross the frozen creek and hike in the meadow area there, without fear of running into people, etc. Since the dogs kept bolting up the road, clearly that was where we should start hiking.
[Fourth Lesson: Repetition makes all messages clear.]

So we hike up the road/trail. I also figure that perhaps the problem was that our hikes were not long enough, and I was not tiring out the dogs enough. After all, they are quite young and uber-athletic dogs, so clearly they just need more exercise. So clearly an hour or so of general meandering is not quite enough. What they need is a robust hike straight up the mountain for at least an hour, covering at least 2.5 miles or more, and only then turning around and hiking back down the mountain. Right. At least 2 hours and at least 5 miles should do it.
[Fifth Lesson: People will believe anything if they convince themselves of it.]

Oh, and treats. Carrying treats -- extra meaty treats as a friend out west correctly encouraged me -- in my coat pocket at all times, provided judiciously to reinforce good behavior and listening. "Come." "Check in." "Hanging out with mom."
[Sixth Lesson: Bribery.]



And on the second day on the road/trail, at ~ 3 miles up the mountain, they both bolted. I hiked another half mile up. Paused. Called. Waited. Started hiking back down. Paused. Called. Waited. Thirty minutes later, they showed up, at full speed, grinning ear to ear, belatedly composing their laments.

And on the fourth day on the road/trail, after a 3+ mile hike up the mountain, with less than a mile to go towards home, right near where the road crosses the river, and another trail -- a more cross country ski focused trail -- forks off, they both bolted. I heard a "ooh ooh ooh" across the river from me, on the other trail, and figured they went to say hi to someone.

I kept hiking forward to the fork. Paused. Called. Waited. Started hiking back down. Paused. Called. Waited. Hiked back towards the river crossing and trail fork. Paused. Called. Waited. Chatted pleasantly with passing cross country skiers. Paused. Called. Waited. Half an hour passed.

I decided to start hiking home. Pleasantly informed all hikers and cross country skiers I passed that there were two dogs wandering about. Got home. An hour had passed. I went inside, pulled out my computer, and worked and surfed. Went to the door. Called. Waited. Went back inside. Two hours have passed.

The football game was supposed to start soon. I don't have television. I was supposed to be going to a friend's place to watch the game. The dogs were still out. Now they were really starting to inconvenience me. Now we have a problem. Went to the door. Called. Waited. Three hours have passed.

Showered. Found a message on my answering machine. Garbled nothingness. Clearly someone up the mountain telling me they had found the dogs. I traced the call, called them back. Proud voice telling me she and her friend had found my dog.

Um. Dog? Singular? Not two?

Crap. The rugrats had separated. Now we have a problem.

The cross country skiers who have found Hollow (!) say they are going to finish their efforts, then will turn around with her and meet me at the trail head. I'm grateful. Now I must find Rilke.

I get in my car. And start slowly driving up the dirt mountain road / trail -- windows down, heat on high, calling and whistling every few seconds. I run into several hikers and cross country skiers (who are not happy I'm in a car on the road -- I explain I am not happy I'm in a car on the road). I ask about Rilke. Nothing. I get a mile up the road and hit the wicked ice flow. I stop. Call. Whistle.

Hollow comes rounding the corner, at top speed, grinning from ear to ear. She is clearly not even  bothering to compose a lament anymore. She is just thinking "WOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO! What a ride!"

I jump out of the car, reach for the back door, and she is inside before I barely have the door open. She is still grinning. I swear I can hear her saying "damn fun. Damn fun."

The cross country skiers appear. I thank them, say I still need to find Rilke. They say Rilke was with them for a bit, but took off when they took this fork instead of staying on the road. I thank them again, get back in the car, turn around, and start slowly driving back down the road.

I get to the top of my drive, look down the road towards the trail head parking lot, and see Rilke standing in the middle of the area. He is grinning, and staring at the other cross country skiers packing their car. There is clearly no lament even in the recesses of his mind. Just a "damn fun."

Clearly my dogs are having more fun than me.
[Seventh Lesson: Collar cams.]

Yep. The lessons learned are that I need to embrace the situation with patience, understand dogs' speeches are as worthless as politicians', that Ronald Reagan was right when he said you must repeat things three times for people to hear them, that if you say something with confidence you'll even believe bullshit, that bribery is never a bad idea, and that if you can't beat 'em -- join 'em.


My new year's resolution is to buy collar cams for my dogs. Because if I'm not invited on the adventures, at least I can join them vicariously!


  1. Indeed, there are lessons to be picked up on your experience. Life in a cabin in the mountains is very different from the suburbs.
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  2. Just the inspiration I needed. I have the new desk but the surroundings are nowhere near perfect yet. Stacks of papers, nothing quite in place. I have new energy to get it together now. Thanks!
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